Youth wellness center would give Bremerton kids a place to escape the TV

Bremerton’s new city and school leaders have picked up the mantle of their predecessors and are pushing ahead with a plan to develop the old East High School into a youth wellness center.

Along with city and school leaders, the idea has gained more fans.

The concept is still in the discussion stage and needs money to get off the ground, but the Bremerton School District, City of Bremerton, Kitsap Pumas, Bremerton Boys and Girls Club and Kitsap Community Food Co-op are on deck to create a community complex at the site on Wheaton Way that would encourage child activity and health. And the idea may also have a fan in the federal government.

Bremerton School District lunches are still prepared at the kitchen on the site, and that kitchen would be demolished and upgraded, Mayor Patty Lent said. The remainder of the buildings, which are now vulnerable to vandalism, would either be updated or replaced to accommodate a new teen center, summer school and after-school activities, nutrition and fitness programs, exercise rooms and physical therapy.

Former Mayor Cary Bozeman and Former Bremerton School District Superintendent Bette Hyde were already discussing the idea of a new complex before current Mayor Patty Lent and Superintendent Lester “Flip” Herndon resumed talks. Right now, they’re seeking additional parties to collaborate with and money to move plans forward.

Lent discussed the idea with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., last week during her trip to Washington, D.C. Lent said she hopes to receive $250,000 in federal appropriations to pursue a study on the project. Next, she wants to market the plans to the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s a great asset to the community,” Herndon said, adding that the plan would make positive use of what is now a vandalization target. “It’s something that we’re really wanting to move more on.”

Lent said the idea coincides with First Lady Michelle Obama’s fight against childhood obesity and envisions a place where Bremerton youth can congregate and learn how to live healthy lives.

“We want to keep them away from the TV, iPods and their little computers,” she said. “We want to make them healthier adults when they grow up.”

Robin Waite, owner of the Kitsap Pumas, wants to put the Pumas in a new soccer stadium at the complex, which would crown the athletic area that would include a practice soccer field and baseball diamond. But more than that, he sees the new complex as an opportunity for East Bremerton to flourish.

“What we envision is resurrecting that whole area,” Waite said, adding that the wellness center could inspire new commercial retail that would invigorate the current “wasteland.”

“Once something like this starts, it sort of spreads,” he said.

Meanwhile, the sketches and proposals are on hold, awaiting the money that would help them come to fruition.

“This is something I would love to accomplish this year,” Lent said. “It’s another district of Bremerton that’s being refreshed.”

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